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Customs checks on imports to hit key COVID-19 drug, devices supply

The delay in clearance of consignments for manufacturing APIs and formulations for life-saving drugs meant for COVID-19 treatment is going to impact the healthcare delivery in these challenging times

July 01, 2020 / 08:03 PM IST

Delays in clearing import consignments of crucial raw materials at ports and airports will impact the production of key COVID-19 drugs -- remdesivir and favipiravir -- and other life-saving medicines, which is critical in the present scenario, The Times of India has reported.

Also, medical equipment such as infrared thermometers and pulse oximeters needed in the fight against COVID-19, among other critical medical devices, are stuck at the ports, said the report, adding that this may result in shortages soon.

Currently, critical raw material and bulk drugs are imported from China, with the country accounting for nearly 70 percent of API (active pharmaceutical imports), while in certain cases like antibiotics, the dependence is around 90 percent, the report suggested.

The delay in clearance of consignments for manufacturing APIs and formulations for life-saving drugs meant for COVID-19 treatment is going to impact the healthcare delivery in these challenging times, said the report quoting a company manufacturing COVID-19 drugs.

According to Mylan, one of the six manufacturers of Remdesivir, said the delay and hold up of raw materials will impact the availability of drugs, said the report. Remdesivir has been granted the “emergency use” approval by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of severely-ill COVID-19 patients.

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The delay, which started a fortnight back, is even as the health ministry and Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil) have sought early clearance of consignments, the report said. Faced with an “acute disruption”, the industry body sought urgent intervention from the government. It has sought instructions to customs authorities for immediate clearance of the supplies at ports and airports, particularly Nhava Sheva port (Maharashtra) and Delhi Airport, it said.

“We have been inundated with distress calls from a lot of our member companies that there has been an acute disruption in manufacturing of pharmaceutical products over the last three days,” said the report citing Pharmexcil’s letter to various government departments.

Pharmexcil chairman Dinesh Dua also told the publication that there would be disruption in supply as there is “near-total dependence on China for key raw materials used in making antibiotics, cardiovascular, respiratory and diabetes medicines.”

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first published: Jun 30, 2020 01:10 pm